Get on Board with Reasonable Adjustments

09 February 2017

The wheelchair versus the buggy. It made for a catchy headline and press coverage over what constitutes reasonable adjustments.

FirstGroup Plc v Paulley

The wheelchair versus the buggy. It made for a catchy headline.

Mr Paulley’s claim against FirstGroup is likely to have consequences that extend far beyond the facts of his case, which was about discrimination in the context of public services. The outcome could require employers to be more proactive in their handling of reasonable adjustments.

Wheelchair-user Mr Paulley was unable to board a bus because another passenger refused to move her pushchair, which had in it a sleeping child, from the designated wheelchair space. He won his disability discrimination claim against the bus company.

After the company’s successful appeal, Mr Paulley took his case to the Supreme Court, arguing that the bus driver hadn’t gone far enough in making the space available to him. The driver had, in line with company policy, asked the passenger to move but when she didn’t, he did no more about it. Mr Paulley argued that the driver ought to have insisted that the non-disabled passenger made way for him, and that insistence should have been enforced if necessary.

The Supreme Court didn’t agree entirely. But it did say that drivers shouldn’t simply make the request and leave it at that. The duty to make reasonable adjustments requires more. It would be good practice for drivers to be encouraged to go as far as they think appropriate in the circumstances - which is for them to judge, taking account of the non-wheelchair user’s reasonableness.

So, what does this mean for employers? Well, we think it requires you go a bit further than you otherwise might when it comes to reasonable adjustments. If a non-disabled employee parks in a disabled parking space, for example, you will probably be expected to (appropriately) ‘require and pressurise’ the offending employee into moving their car. You should probably look to enforce rules, such as proper parking, in this context as a reasonable adjustment.

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